Boling: Seahawks have the Niners right where they want them

dave.boling@thenewstribune.comApril 17, 2014 

Even before the communal euphoria slightly ebbed from its peak, Seattle Seahawks staffers were being asked how the team would cope with the inevitable distractions accompanying Super Bowl victories.

But compared with the San Francisco 49ers the past few months, the Seahawks have been as tame as cloistered monks.

Yes, for the Seahawks, there have been the diversions of a parade, television appearances, the nonstop flattery and reminders of their invincibility — not to mention the expected free-agency losses.

But the San Francisco 49ers are easily the NFC West leader in distractions.

In summary, they apparently considered trading the coach that took them to three consecutive NFC title games; their franchise quarterback was involved in an incident that drew nationwide negative headlines; and their best pass rusher, Aldon Smith, was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport last weekend for allegedly making a false bomb report.

For the Seahawks and their fans, dysfunction in the camp of their biggest rival is welcome news.

We might wonder now whether so much is going on down there that it could cause the Niners to slide from the position of prime contender in a division where last year’s third- and fourth-place teams should be on the rise.

To get the full context, we should point out that the Niners’ offseason started in the second half of the NFC Championship Game at CenturyLink Field.

In that fourth quarter against the Seahawks, quarterback Colin Kaepernick lost a fumble and threw two interceptions. They also lost beastly linebacker NaVorro Bowman to a severe knee injury.

It was a high-intensity game that was the dramatic equal to the best Super Bowls. It had to affect the Niners like a kidney punch. But that was an on-the-field disappointment, in a game after which both teams could be proud of their combativeness.

Since then, the headlines have been more of the sort that reflect franchise dysfunction.

The rumors of conflict between general manager Trent Baalke and coach Jim Harbaugh turned into news stories when it was revealed that, at least at some preliminary stage, they looked at trading Harbaugh to the Cleveland Browns.

Meanwhile, in Seattle, coach Pete Carroll was getting his contract extended in a news conference that featured the tossing of valentines and bouquets back and forth between Carroll and GM John Schneider.

Kaepernick’s name recently appeared in a story of vague provenance regarding a possible sexual-assault situation in a Miami hotel. Subsequent reports indicate much less drama. But the Niners and Kaepernick nonetheless were put in a defensive mode.

An interesting sidebar was that Kaepernick was accompanied that night by Ricardo Lockette, a Seahawks backup receiver.

If I were a Niners fan, the first thing I’d suspect is that the Seahawks entrusted a depth-chart guy with luring their franchise quarterback into a problem that could lead to a suspension.

Wouldn’t that be like a hockey fight in which one team’s goon tries to lure the other team’s high-scoring right winger into a scrap, hoping both get sent to the penalty box?

Meanwhile, the Arizona Cardinals finished the season 10-6 with a late win over the Seahawks and a 23-20 loss to the Niners in the last week.

That was in coach Bruce Arians’ first season. They can be expected to be even tougher the second time around under this staff.

And the St. Louis Rams continue to play divisional teams tough. They still are banking high draft picks from the trade with the Washington Redskins for quarterback Robert Griffin III, this time getting the No. 2 pick to go along with their own at No. 13.

There’s still the draft coming up, and minicamps and training camp to get this sorted out.

But these guys are all keeping score of these developments because if you think there’s an offseason in the NFC West, you haven’t been paying attention.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 @DaveBoling

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